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Opinion: Highway-Widening Origami


By Todd Bray, Riptide Correspondent

Caltrans' proposed highway widening known as the Calera Parkway Project between Rockaway and Vallemar is a little bit more complicated than just adding a third lane northbound and southbound.

The project, as currently proposed, would add a center meridian nearly three lanes wide by itself, and would require further infrastructure to allow the project to be built over what is now thin air: things like a small causeway built over wetlands and up to 30-foot-tall retaining walls along most of the project length, again to allow for the extra lanes and center meridian to be poured and leveled in what is now nothing, just thin air.

If, like me, you need a visual aid to understand just how wide all of this roadway construction would be, get out a piece of construction paper and do a little origami fold right down the center of the paper, folding it in half long ways. The folded piece of paper represents the current width of Highway 1. Now unfold the paper and that represents the width of the proposed project.

And if you want to take it a step further, go to a vantage point that allows you to see along the highway. Hold up your folded origami highway to match the current width. Then, keeping the paper in the same spot, simply unfold it to the width the highway would be after being widened. Shocking, isn't it? Shocking to see so clearly just what sort of gigantic impact the project would have if, through our inaction, we allow it to be built.


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Big Banker makes money by loaning out money. Not by painting.

BTW, why do I get a "Bay of Tonkin, WMD at the UN" vibe from everything Big Banker and Hutch claim about ambulance trips through town?

I think the Gang of No is little tin soldiers that Big Banker paints by hand and uses to re-enact land-use battles on a game board that represents the quarry. I think the Gang of No is a figment of a very creative live-at-home mind.

Ian: You should bring your concerns to City Council, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, Caltrans, Jerry Hill's office, etc.

Beating the dead horse online over and over isn't going to get your horse in the winner circle at the Kentucky Derby!

@ big banker: I would like to meet this "Gang of No." It sounds like a very unusual group. I, for one, haven't yet met even a "Person of No." Everybody I have ever met, whether I agree with them or not on the particular discussion at hand, has some somewhat nuanced opinions and perspectives based on some kind of thinking about the issues. Nobody I have ever met is uniformly for or uniformly against whatever has come, is coming, or will ever come down the pike. I am guessing that somewhere back there in your history when you presented your very favorite, very bad idea, it didn't receive the enthusiastic support you were expecting. I am sorry about that, but it shouldn't color your whole view of politics, and it shouldn't make you go making up implausible straw persons to easily topple.

I'm fine with widening the shoulders enough to get emergency vehicles through more safely -- about five feet on each side should do it. It's the other 140 feet I have a problem with.

On March 26 there was an emergency. The patient in the ambulance had to rushed to the hospital. The ambulance had to drive in the opposite direction of highway 1.

I know of two other incidents that people passed away on the way to the DR.

So now the "gang of no" can't say highway 1 needs safety improvements.

Two things: I agree that a grade separation at Reina Del Mar would allow for far greater circulation flow today and well into the future. And second, the argument I've read in the widening EIR and heard incessantly from the pro-widening minority (that a landscaped meridian would allow pedestrians to wait out a second light sequence to finish crossing the widening proposal) is absurd. Requiring pedestrians to wait in the middle of traffic going 50 + MPH on either side of them is just plain cruel.

It's too bad that using the Vallemar and Rockaway crosswalks is not a requirement for Caltrans employees or more specifically the Calera Parkway Project Development Team (PDT). It really is too bad.

Perhaps the landscaped median is intended to create a place for pedestrians to wait through an entire light cycle to finish crossing the street. Unfortunately, inconveniencing pedestrians is the opposite of reducing traffic!

Mitch: This Pacifica Highway 1 debate has been going on for more than 40 years. In the past 40 years, Pacifica could have taken either a proactive approach or a reactive approach. The city has done neither. Even with a previous mayor and longtime city councilman on the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, he brought nothing to Pacifica but a couple of walking trials.

In the meantime, council and the gang of no are playing a game of who blinks first. This stunt of trying to control council cost the city's taxpayers more than $50,000.

Timing the lights during commute hours is a fairly simple thing. Maybe change the school rules, where kids go to the nearest school instead of parents driving on the highway across town every morning.

During the Peebles quarry proposal, the gang of no claimed we have too much traffic, and instructed members to keep pushing the crosswalk buttons at Vallemar. Now the gang of no claims we do not have enough traffic.

The gang of no has had a 30-plus-year stranglehold on council. We can very fairly say that they have failed. Pacifica could have easily been the lead agency on this project, but councils past and present are terrified of upsetting the gang of no.

Council has claimed the Manor overpass is crumbling. This Caltrans project is far from perfect, but to date I have yet to see any alternative plan from the gang of no or council. This project fixes roughly 10 percent of the traffic problem.

We need to give thought to how one might improve public transportation to the big, big city. All else will fall into line once we have figured that out. All other destinations will become much more accessible if we have quick, easy access to S.F.

Caltrans failed to say in the FEIR how long the light would be red for pedestrians to get across. As Chris and Dan have pointed out: Extra lanes = longer wait time. Every time someone pushes the button: full traffic stop. If 10 people in a row push the button in the morning to walk across, instant traffic jam backing up to Linda Mar. This is insane. An overpass/underpass (removing the traffic light) would completely eliminate this problem forever, and "provide the best traffic congestion relief" (as stated by Caltrans in the FEIR).

It's the Editorial Bored.

Dan points out the Catch-22 of the widening project.

The whole point of the widening is to increase the number of cars moving through the Reina Del Mar intersection during a given interval, but because the project adds WAY more than 12 feet of extra lane in each direction, traffic on Highway 1 has to be stopped for longer periods of time so that pedestrians can cross it all safely.

In other words, Caltrans' project adds lanes, but it also increases wait times at the traffic lights, thus defeating the whole (supposed) purpose of it.

OUCH, I don't know who butchers Letters to the Editor at the Tribune, but thank goodness we have a true editor here on Riptide. I had sent in the same opinion/LTE to the Tribune and today it appears hacked and slashed to pieces as if by a monkey. Wadda ya gonna do?

I don't remember pedestrian casualties there, either. The reason that is such a long light is to prevent accidents. Add more lanes and it will need to be longer still.

Dan: I once had a college professor who told us that if you don't come in with a case in point, and if you don't come in with facts, you are merit-less.

Note to editor: It wasn't an English professor!

(Editor's Note: That's for sure.)

What PB said!

Dan: Unless you can correct me if I am wrong, but I cannot remember a kid being hit by a car in this intersection.

The crosswalk at Vallemar is too long already. The light would have to stay red longer to avoid endangering the kids in the crosswalk. There are several ACTUAL improvements we could do instead of Caltrans' disastrous plan.

Here's a link to the proposed segment of highway that Caltrans proposes:

Measure A money funds most of this project, but not all. Why spend public monies on a highway segment that will cause years of construction, create a bottleneck of traffic when done, increase accidents due to merging into and out of lanes on each end, and create a longer walk across to the beach?

Measure A money can be spent on public transit.

Why is Pacifica getting shortchanged with an unlivable, unsustainable, traffic-inducing slab of greenhouse-gas-causing cement -- when we have virtually no public transit during the commute, and when none of the alternatives have been studied, singly or in any combination?

It's important to understand Todd's point, which is that the project isn't simply plunking down an extra lane in each direction and calling it a day. Here's a picture of Highway 1 with the proposed center median superimposed upon it in red. Notice how large the median is compared to our existing roadway:

On the ocean side, add three 12-foot lanes PLUS a 10-foot shoulder beyond the red line. On the inland side, add three 12-foot lanes, PLUS a 10-foot shoulder, PLUS a 10-foot planter, PLUS a 6-foot sidewalk.

Check out this cross section from Caltrans' own Final Environmental Impact Report (figure 1.5):

This illustration encapsulates my personal objection to the project. The addition of a single lane in each direction more than doubles the width of the roadway -- from 64 feet across to 144 feet across. This is complete overkill.

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